We admire a hotel that proudly proclaims its love for its locale. With Nantipa, a beachfront boutique stay in hard-to-reach but easy-to-adore surf hangout Santa Teresa, there’s a lot to love: the pura vida is strong here, with Cabo Blanco National Park’s menagerie of animals, the dazzling array of marine life to snorkel with and nearly a mile of soft sandy beach, all part of a Unesco blue zone (a signpost for serene living). The hotel cares dearly for these environs, so it’s impressively eco-friendly in attitude and practice, and brings its heritage front and centre, with suite names from the ancient Chorotegan tribe’s language and tribal-style architecture, and several generations’ worth of recipes used in the restaurant. So, whether you’ve come to surf, sunbathe, or seek out adventure, Nantipa will sweep you up in its enthusiasm.
Get this when you book through us:
Two cocktails, served at sunset, plus a selection of tapas for stays of two nights or more
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability and an extra charge. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $395.50, including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates usually include a choice of American, Continental or traditional Nicoyan breakfast, plus coffee, tea and juice.
The hotel has an intriguing partnership with the Five-Minute Beach Clean-up Foundation, which helps guests to better understand beach pollution and how waste can travel for thousands of miles. They’re invited to take a bucket from reception, spend five minutes clearing microplastic residue from the shore, then post their activity on social media, for which they’re rewarded with a smoothie at the bar.
The hotel takes Covid-19 precautions seriously. All staff and collaborators are tested and wear masks and gloves, and social distancing is practiced at all times. Public areas will be disinfected frequently and contact minimised – guests will need to have their temperature taken on arrival and will be given a mask to wear. Luggage will be cleaned on arrival, and guests will be asked if they require housekeeping; if so, staff will not enter a room while a guest is in it. The restaurant will run at half capacity and tables will be spaced apart, as will sunloungers by the pool and on the beach.
At the hotel
Beach, gardens, free WiFi. In rooms: Smart TV with streaming channels, dining table and chairs, desk, climate control, tea- and coffee-making kit, free bottled water, and minibar. Ninta Beachfront and Ninta Pool View bungalows have their own private pool too.
Our favourite rooms
The Ninta Beachfront suites are our pick – you’ll have your very own plunge pool and you’ll be right on the sand, with the sparkling blue views that brings. With furnishings from Masaya in Nicaragua and blue accents as a nod to the hotel’s Chorotegan name, they’re stylish too, but be warned – while the floor-to-ceiling windows add an indoor-outdoor feel, those relaxing on the beach can see in, so close those curtains for pants-free time. For families, the Nanku Suites have two bedrooms and space for up to four.
The curvaceous freshwater pool meanders through the hotel grounds, past cacti, succulents, palms and other tropical foliage. It’s unheated, but the Nicoya Peninsula has nearly year-round sunshine so it’s really rather refreshing. There’s a decked area with sunloungers and Roman steps and a shallow end to keep it safe for supervised kids. Or, splash around in the Pacific.
There’s no official spa at the hotel (yet), but this means that massages and more can be carried out on a private part of the beach, where gentle breezes, sunshine and the soothing sound of the waves will enhance the effects of your treatment. For a thorough freshen up of body, mind and soul, try the hotel’s ‘transcendental wellness experience’, a holistic boot camp led by your own personal practitioner, who’ll guide you through active meditation, various kinds of yoga (kriya; restorative), life-coaching sessions, Ayurvedic marma-points therapy, and sound healing. If you don’t need the full works, yoga and meditation sessions can be booked separately.
You’ll find a bottle of the hotel’s house pineapple liquor in your room – it’s delicious so see if you can acquire more to stash in your suitcase.
For guests with mobility issues, public areas are wheelchair-accessible. Book a Nanku Suite to ensure plenty of space.
Welcome to run wild as they please. The beach and pool will keep older kids happy, and juniors get their own menu in Manzú restaurant (highchairs can be provided and baby food warmed up, too).
There’s no kids’ club, but tweens and teens will be happy to hangout on the beach.
The Nanu Suites are for families: you won’t have a private pool, but you’ll have more room for activities. The Ninta Pool View and Ninta Beachfront suites are for children aged 13 and over, due to proximity to the water.
Onsite, kids can splash about in the pool or Pacific; offsite, they can partake in gentle hikes, spot animals on a rainforest safari or take an exhilarating zipline through the canopy (age limits may apply).
The main pool’s Roman steps and shallow end make it relatively child-safe, and the ocean is safe to paddle in – just watch out for incoming surfers.
Smalls have their own menu of simple crowd-pleasers: buttered pasta, fish fingers, grilled cheese… But, if you want to inspire your little one’s palate, the gallos and rice dishes may appeal – as will the messiness of the guacamole-making.
The hotel’s green at heart. Plastics are used very sparingly, wastewater keeps the grounds looking lush, energy sensors manage light use, each room has a solar water heater, and solid waste is sent to the Nicoya Waterkeepers processing plant. And, the hotel recycles, of course. When it was built, just six trees were felled and were given new life as part of the construction; since then, endemic plants and trees have replaced them many times over. Local hires are a priority too.
The Moroccan tea tables set on the sand are the most romantic and you can request a private patch of beach for a more intimate meal. Or, more uniquely, have staff set up a floating three-course meal in the pool.
Shoes? What shoes?
At Manzú restaurant, tradition is as tightly interwoven into the dining experience as the thatch on its roof – a design inspired by ancient Chorotegan dwellings. The chef has built an enticing menu on Tico recipes handed down through generations, which are by turns light and refreshing and rich and decadent. Say, straight-off-the-line seabass ceviche with passionfruit and watermelon salad or butternut squash with pejibaye (palm peach) cream, beef tenderloin with coffee sauce and picanha demi-glace. Of the breakfast choices included in your rate, we recommend the Nicoyan option, for the addition of gallo pinto, handmade tortillas and fried plantain. And for lunch, scarf down oh-so-fresh seafood with rice or get hands-on with the mash-your-own guacamole platter. Fish taco fans (or indeed any types of taco) can get their fill of the Costa Rican version, ‘gallos’, by the beach or pool.
The bar and restaurant are one, but the delicious tropical cocktails, courtesy of the roving bartenders of New York’s Mulberry Project, stand out all on their own. They’ve plucked – at times literally – fruits and flavourings from the fertile surroundings to make refreshing sippers. Say, the Goji & Guanabana where the superfood is turbocharged with tequila; or the Crazy Colada, where the classic gets a spicy kick of jalapeño and ginger syrup with cardamom bitters. Plus, they’ll happily muddle something fruity up with local liquor guaro for good measure. The wine list has lots of Latin American favourites too.
Breakfast is from 8am to 10am, lunch from 11am to 3.30pm, and dinner from 6pm to 10pm. The cocktail cut-off point at the bar is 9pm.
For an extra charge, staff will set up your bungalow’s terrace for breakfast or a three-course meal in complete privacy. Book before you arrive because only two private breakfasts or meals can be arranged each day.
Nantipa is by surf haven Santa Teresa Beach at the southwestern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. It shares the shorefront with luxurious celeb homes and well-heeled resorts, but feels secluded still.
You’ll need to fly into Juan Santamaría International Airport in San José, then connect via a 20-minute flight to the Tambor landing strip, which is a 35-minute drive from the hotel. From here, transfers can be arranged for US$80 each way, for up to four guests. Alternatively you can fly into Liberia International, a four-hour drive away; transfers from here are US$310 each way.
While a car may come in handy for reaching the hotel, you’re unlikely to need one onsite; hotel staff will ferry you to excursions and the beach is, well, right there. Should you need wheels, you can hire them in San José; however, you may prefer to just sit back and enjoy being chauffeured about – after all, you wouldn’t want to miss any once-in-a-lifetime sights. If you do bring a car, there’s free parking at the hotel.
If you want to take in a little more of Costa Rica’s tropical scenery, self-drive to Punta Arenas. Once outside the capital, you’ll pass verdant plantations and leafy mountain-backed vistas. From Punta Arenas, ride the car ferry (US$24 a car, each way; book in advance at www.quickpaycr.com) from the port over the Gulf of Nicoya to Paquera – during the 70-minute trip, there’s a chance you’ll spot whales, dolphins, schools of manta rays, large jellyfish, and flying fish in these biodiverse waters. When you reach the other side, the hotel’s a 50-minute drive away. It’s a longer route, but all the more edifying.
Worth getting out of bed for
Santa Teresa was once a sleepy village fueled by farming and fishing, which just so happened to exist by a world-class beach – with reliable surf breaks – and spectacular wildlife reserves. The one dusty and unpaved road into town still gives it the air of an undiscovered paradise for free spirits, and while many are still there pootling about with surfboards or yoga mats in arms, Santa Teresa has caught the attention of celebs looking to go low-key and hoteliers with big ideas, yet executed in such a way that the town retains its cosy nook outside the spotlight. Now that you’ve stumbled upon it, it’s easy to see why it lies within a designated Unesco blue zone, where the population is happier and the quality of life higher. The locus of this cheeriness is most likely Santa Teresa Beach, which is sandy underfoot and privy to rideable surf swells as well as sun-kissed lounging – it’s safe to swim in too. All of Nantipa’s bungalows lie steps away from the shore, so your days will likely be spent moving from bed to beach towel. Otherwise, Nantipa can arrange spa treatments on the beach or organise a bespoke wellness programme, with elements of Ayurvedic practice, yoga, meditation and a spot of life coaching.
Even beginners should hop on a board here – it’s what put Santa Teresa on the map – so request a two-hour surf lesson (for up to four people) with seasoned wave-riders at either Playa Carmen or Playa Hermosa. Rash guards, boards, leashes and transportation will be provided. Boogie-boarding sessions can be arranged too. Or if you’d like to take to the water in a more relaxing fashion, book a boat trip to Tortuga, a dishy tropical island teeming with sealife. On the way you may spot dolphins, jumping manta rays, turtles and the odd humpback or pilot whale, in season. And, when you arrive you’ll have more reasons to cheerfully hum Under the Sea to yourself as you snorkel past angelfish, porcupine fish and spotted eagle rays. A fishing trip with locals of the trade is another peaceful aquatic adventure, where you’ll sail through reefs and river mouths in search of sailfish, marlin, tuna, mahi-mahi and wahoo.
If you’re more of a landlubber, there are breathtaking – and beautifully cared for – national parks and wildlife reserves to immerse yourself in. Cabo Blanco National Park (part of the Tempisque Conservation Area), was the first major conservation project in Costa Rica, created by Scandinavian couple Olof Wessberg and Karen Morgenson in 1963. It clearly worked, as the park is densely inhabited with diverse wildlife: from kinkajous to boa-constrictors to capuchins, and many bird species that gather on the famous ‘white cape’ rocks. Try animal-spotting at ground level or zipline your way through the park at top speed. Curú Reserve is the second spot where nature can be herself, where monkeys and more are easily spotted from the trails. And if you trek out to the Montezuma Waterfall (a guide will show you the way), you can reward your hiking efforts with a cooling dip.
Hop on horseback to ride to scenic viewpoints or along the beach, request a rainforest safari, steal out at night to see the bioluminescence sparkle or simply secure your place on the sand – experiences here can be as big or small as you desire, and there are no regrettable choices.
With a replenishing supply of fresh, delicious fish, it’s unsurprising that there’s a top japanese restaurant in Santa Teresa. Koji’s has a daily-changing menu dependent on what the fishing boats bring in, but sushi, sashimi and tempura are a mainstay – visit in the evening when its super-chill ambience is given a fairy-lit glow. Or, maybe you prefer something meatier, which you’ll find at El Facon Grill & Bar – a cool, casual steak and burger joint with an open grill that infuses the place with scents to make your stomach growl. Owned by Argentines, here you’re guaranteed a perfectly cooked piece of meat. La Cevicheria serves heaped bowlfuls of zesty fish, plus the odd grilled lobster, and for Buddha bowls, vegan wraps and other health-conscious edibles, perch at one of Somos’s long tables.
The hotel’s cocktail list requires repeat viewings, but if you want to party with Santa Teresa’s surfer sorts, make way to Banana Beach for tequila shots and live music till late.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this good-for-the-soul stay by Santa Teresa Beach and unpacked their wetsuit and bottle of potent guaro liquor, a full account of their surf’s-up-then-beach-towels-down break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Nantipa in Costa Rica…
Nantipa’s origins are somewhat like a fairy-tale – more specifically, Goldilocks, in that everything here is just right. Its three owners Harry, Luis and Meni cannily noted that Santa Teresa, a seaside surf haven on the cusp of getaway greatness, was lacking in intimate stays that were close to its glorious beach and super-chill nightlife, so they set about making Nantipa – in eco-friendly fashion – and they’ve been trading in ‘happily ever afters’ since then. But, there’s more to this story; Nantipa means ‘blue’ in the native language of what was once the most powerful tribe of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, the Chorotegans, and their legacy is honoured throughout by using words from their mother tongue to name the stylish suites and bungalows and styling the restaurant to look like an ancient tribal dwelling. This Tico pride is also present in hand-me-down recipes and a love of locally grown and fished ingredients. And, beyond the sparkling Pacific waters that all rooms have a view of here (after all, the beach is mere steps from your door), ‘blue’ refers to the Unesco Blue Zone all around, where the quality of life is high and the natural beauty astounding. Altogether, Nantipa seems to want to grab you by the hand and excitedly say ‘come, see the dolphins frolicking offshore’, ‘try the seabass ceviche, fresh from the line this morning, and a couple of fish gallos’, and ‘let’s get a round of Crazy Coladas in – the jalapeño gives it a kick’. And, with the parks packed with wildlife to coo over, barreling waves to ride, and a true sense of compassion for the area’s conservation, this is a story that’s hard not to get caught up in.